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Reading and Storytelling with Babies and Young Children

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Why is storytelling so important?

Storytelling is considered to be the first way of communicating life experiences and the creative imagination. Storytelling predates the written language, without stories we would have no record of the past in which to build a future upon.

Consider how important that storytelling is in sharing life experiences with a baby or a young child and how important it is to awaken a child’s creative imagination. The Society for Storytelling celebrates the value of storytelling with National Storytelling Week. The event is celebrated in storytelling clubs, theatres, museums, schools, hospitals, spoken word venues, and care homes.

The Society for Storytelling refers to the magic that occurs between the breath of the teller and the ear of the listener. The idea is to transform stories from a moment, into a world where memories are evoked and the imagination is set free. For a child, stories broaden their world and ignite their imagination.

How can storytelling impact babies and young children?

It’s never too early to start reading to a baby. By the time a baby is three to six-months old, they are able begin to respond to pictures of faces, shapes, and colours. We recommend reading books with lots of pictures and textures at this age or younger, as this will help them develop the skill of focusing their eyes.

The effects of story-telling on the development of children is powerful. For some, a bedtime story is part of a daily ritual where the child not only learns how to navigate the world of imagination, but also has quiet time shared closely with a parent or guardian. This provides a great opportunity for a moment of bonding.

Storytelling doesn’t always need to come from reading books. Singing songs, sharing rhymes or telling old tales from a cultural background are other forms of storytelling. Babies and young children respond to stories and songs with rhyme, rhythm and repetition.

Reading is one of the most important daily routines that you and your child should have. Bedtime is a typical time for storytelling as it provides a gentle way to end the child’s day, though stories occur at all times of day. Other times that naturally lend themselves to storytelling include bath time or potty time.

Storytelling can also make travelling with a baby or young child more appealing and easier. Whether traveling by train, bus, plane or car, reading stories is a great way of keeping a child entertained whilst also passing time.

The more words a child hears, the better they will be at developing language skills and literacy skills. When you share a story, you are making the child’s world bigger by using different words and expanding your child’s vocabulary.

Words have the ability to awaken a child’s curiosity. The more stories they hear, the more questions they have. The more questions they have, the more their imagination will grow along with their understanding of the world around them.

Stories also expand a child’s life as they hear about more people doing different things. This is a wonderful way for a child to learn the difference between what is real and what is make-believe. The more a child is exposed to the world of books, the more they are also able to differentiate between the reality of fact or fiction.

Reading to a child is a way for the child to understand change and face new challenges. Reading stories that can resonate with a child or particular events they have been through can help to validate emotions, open up a dialogue and navigate responses in a safe environment.

Reading and Fostering

As a foster carer, a bedtime story creates a new and special connection between yourself and the child in your care.

The value of a good book or story has been shown to have a positive effect on a child’s sense of imagination and their ability to explore their feelings and thoughts. Books are non-confrontational. They are a door into a world where the child can imagine anything possible. A story can open up a dialogue that might not otherwise have existed.

Storytelling tips

To help get started with a regular routine of reading books with babies and young children, here are some helpful tips from us here at Capstone:

  • Aim to share at least one story each day.

  • Find a special, comfortable environment for both yourself and your child.

  • Remove any distractions to allow both yourself and your child to remain focused.

  • When storytelling to a baby or young child, holding them close can create a special bond.

  • Be playful. Mimic voices and sounds to really bring a story to life and evoke a child imagination. When reading to a baby, use different tones of voice as you read to allow your baby to hear different speech sounds, encouraging them to make new sounds.

  • When your child is old enough, allow them to hold the book or turn the pages themselves. This will help to make them feel more included and encourage them to want to read themselves.

  • Where possible, avoid reading the same story every night. The more a child is exposed to various stories, the more they learn. This can be applied in everyday life, not just in storytelling. We recommend reading most thing out loud or sound out letters from a label, a poster or even a menu.

  • If you need help finding the right books, bookstores and libraries have books in all age categories covering a range of topics.

  • Younger children may have a shorter attention span when listening to stories. So, it is important to know when to stop reading. Look out for the signs that the story has gone beyond the child’s attention span. It is not always necessary to finish the book – you can stop storytelling any time that it seems that your child is restless. This allows them to absorb the information, rather than overloading them.

  • When you read to a baby, read slowly and take extra time on each page. We recommend keeping the baby upright, so that the page is close enough for them to see pictures and shapes.

  • For young children or toddlers, when reading a familiar book, you can pause and let them fill in the words that they may already be familiar with..

 

Here at Capstone, we encourage you to celebrate National Storytelling Week and to ensure reading and storytelling is an active part of your foster family life. If you are interested in fostering, simply contact Capstone Foster Care today to learn more.

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